All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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25 Songs, 25 Days: Into My Arms

Day 18: A song that you love but rarely listen to

Into My Arms | Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

nickcave

Before I met Louise, the only music I really listened to was film soundtracks, Bryan Adams and Meatloaf. Music was something that hadn’t really entered my life, not in the way that film had. Years into our relationship Louise surmised that film was to me, what music was to other people. When I felt depressed, down, sad, stressed, upset, rather than slip on a CD to ease the pain, I would slide in a DVD. Film was something that offered solace, comfort and happiness in times of great, overwhelming sadness. Film had, after all, seen me through my depression filled teenage years – something music had not.

But after meeting Louise, after learning of the extent music played in her life, I began broadening my musical horizon. Where once I would walk into a shop and buy a movie, I would now walk into a shop and buy a CD. Runrig, Ani DiFranco, Martyn Bennett, The Walkabouts, Jeff Buckley; music was now beginning to play a major role in my life.

Of all that artists Louise introduced me to during the early months of our relationship, one stood out; Nick Cave. I fell in love with not only the man’s music, but the man himself. I loved his wit, his intelligent lyrics and soulful, haunting voice. I loved his compositions, his melodies and overall demeanor. From album to album I fell more in love with the man until, sometime in mid 2003, I pronounced him one of my favourite musicians.

Of all his songs there is one that stands out to me. Not only because it is one of his best tracks, but because it was Louise’s favourite. Like Hallelujah, this piece of music defines my relationship with Louise, which is why I rarely listen to it. I love the song. I love everything about it. But it’s too triggering, too close to my heart for it to be any comfort. It reminds me of Louse and everything we had together.

But every now and then, when I feel strong enough to deal, I play it.

And fall in love with Nick Cave – and Louise – all over again.


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Life is hard, sometimes…

One of the strangest things that has come from my quit smoking attempt is an addiction to cheese. Ever since going smoke free on Wednesday I haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff. I’ve devoured toasted cheese sandwich after toasted cheese sandwich. I’ve feasted on jacket potatoes slathered with lashings of cheddary awesomeness and snacked on savory biscuits adorned with cubes of tasty cheese. Part of me feels I should be worried about this new obsession. That I am merely substituting one addiction with another. But the other part of me laughs in the face of such thinking. Cheese, after all, is not known to cause cancer. It is known to increase your waist size, but as I’m already a big fat person (okay, not that big or that fat) I’m not too worried about this. I’m just thankful for the fact I’d gone three days without cigarettes…

…and yes, you read that sentence correctly. I had gone three days without cigarettes. For this afternoon, after a brutal night of PTSD nightmares and little to no sleep, after a morning of confusion and melancholy, I turned to the sweet drug nicotine to ease my troubled mind. I know what triggered it. I know what caused the onslaught of memory and flashback. And there is nothing I could have done about it. I’m trying not to see this as a setback. I’m trying to look at it with positive eyes. Yes, I smoked a cigarette. But I only smoked one cigarette. I could easily have smoked two, three or four. I could easily have said to hell with my quit smoking attempt, give me more of that nicotine drenched goodness! But I didn’t. I smoked one, blissful, cigarette and then placed the pack in the trash before returning to my quit smoking endeavor.

You might want to give me a bollocking. You might want to turn me over your knee and give me a sound spanking. But before you take such extreme, flirtatious measures, remember that at least I’m being honest about smoking today. I could easily lie about it. I could easily ignore the fact I smoked today and go on making everyone believe I was still smoke free. But that isn’t me. I’m an honest soul. Sometimes too honest. Every quit smoking attempt is littered with setbacks and relapses. Nicotine is, after all, one of the hardest drugs to give up. It’s grip is vicious, strong and vice like. I do feel bad about smoking today, but I’d like everyone to remember how difficult my life is before scolding me.

I’m not saying that for sympathy or special treatment. I’m saying it because it’s true. My life is difficult. I live alone, I have few friends in close proximity and I battle bipolar affective disorder, complex PTSD and severe social anxiety disorder with little to no help. Just being alone all the time is enough to drive most people to despair, let alone having to deal with complicated mental illnesses at the same time. The smallest, most inconsequential thing can trigger me. I could be watching a movie that features a rape scene and bam I’m back in Adelaide being anally penetrated by a grotesque stranger. I could be walking down the road and smell a scent that sends me hurtling back into my abusive relationship. Or I could read an online article and be sent spiraling into the depths of poverty and homelessness.

Over the years I’ve come to realise just how precarious my life is. So many triggers. So many things to avoid. It amazes me sometimes how I have lived as long as I have. Chewing gum, gin and tonic, Buffy, Fitzroy, cigars, Harry Potter, The Dark Knight; all are things that I have to avoid. All have the power to pull me away from the present and send me tumbling into the abyss of panic, terror and nightmare. Just think, for a moment, how difficult that can be. How many times is Harry Potter mentioned in the media, on blogs? People who read Harry Potter don’t just like it, they obsess over it. Hundreds upon thousands of online hours have been dedicated to writing about this fictional wizard. He regularly appears in the mainstream media, on Buzzfeed, on blogs; and every time he does, my mind is triggered and I stop functioning.

Just the other day I was in the supermarket when a father asked his daughter “Would you like that?” and I was rendered almost non-functioning. For this was the exact assortment of words that my rapist said to me. And that’s not the first time that’s happened. Once, many years ago, I was in a similar situation, heard those exact words, and an ambulance had to be called to assist me as I ended up lying in the fetal position, unable to move. Can you imagine how difficult life can be when a simple four word sentence holds such power over someone’s functioning? It’s exhausting. It’s debilitating. It’s painful. It’s so many bloody synonyms I could be here til Doomsday typing them all out.

But I do the best I can. I get out of bed when it would be all too easy to remain there all day. I walk to the supermarket when all I want to do is remain in the comfort and safety of my own world. And I push myself to perform tasks that, although difficult, aid and assist my life. Just the other day I discovered that there is an event being held in Melbourne on the 21st August. A gathering of like-minded souls, congregating to celebrate their passion in a club like environment. There is going to be hundreds of people there. Hundreds of strangers that have the power to render me panic-stricken and comatose. But I put my hand up to attend. I, Addy Lake, social anxiety extraordinaire, volunteered to attend a function with hundreds of people who could render me unable to function. All because I want to go. All because I yearn to break through the hold my anxiety and PTSD hold over my life.

That’s why I’m not beating myself up for smoking one cigarette. My life is hard, it’s painful and it’s every day. There is very little joy in my life and very little relaxation. I exist in a constant state of hyper-vigilance; endlessly on the lookout for the next thing that could send me cascading into the past. But I keep fighting. I keep pushing myself. And I keep seeking out new and hitherto untried strategies that could break the hold mental illness has on me. And that is something to be proud of. Regardless of the occasional slip-up or setback.


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Six of the Best: My self-harm triggers…

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
What are some of your main triggers? Why?

emotionaltriggers

I’ve written extensively of my triggers on this blog, including one post in which I challenged myself to find an emotional trigger for every letter of the alphabet. I personally believe that knowing your triggers is one of the most important tasks you can undertake in your recovery journey. For only by knowing what sets you off, what stimulates those urges and beckons the darkness, can we hope to find ways to appease them.

1. Loneliness

My primary trigger for many of my mental distresses is loneliness. Even thinking about being alone is enough to trigger bouts of depression, mood shifts of bipolar and all manner of self harm activity. Ever since I was a teenager I had a fear of being alone. It was something I never wanted to be. I thrive on people. Being around others fills me with confidence, motivates me, thrills me and generally fills me with all sorts of happy fuzzy bunny feelings. But when I’m alone. When I have no-one in my life. I am filled with a darkness that only self-harm can enlighten. The last eight months of being self-harm free have been a nightmare. I am perpetually alone. No-one to distract me, no-one to enliven me, no-one to stimulate me. As such, I find myself being constantly triggered, but unable to self harm to relieve myself as I wish to remain self harm free.

2. Emotional Abuse/Domestic Violence

Ever since I found myself the victim of an emotionally abusive relationship, anything to do with abuse/domestic violence has triggered me. Overhearing it being talked about in public. Reading about it in a newspaper article. Seeing the hashtag #DV in tweets. Everything and anything to do with abuse has the power to render me completely useless, as it resurfaces all the memories, all the pain and chaos that I went through during those long, abusive months. Many times over the last eight years I’ve found myself self harming to relieve the pain I feel as a result of domestic violence.

3. Rape

My rape occurred on the 7th July 2007; eight years ago tomorrow. Sitting here, today, I have already begun thinking the only way I will get through the day is by self harming. I don’t want to. But the memories that will resurface, the pain that I will be assaulted with, will only be soothed by self harm. It is, without question, the first major challenge of my self harm free period this year. But it isn’t just memories of my rape that trigger me. Like abuse/domestic violence, it is everything to do with the subject. Articles. Personal accounts. Tweets. Facebook posts. TV shows. Anything that features rape has the power to trigger me. It’s hard, and it’s painful, and it’s everyday. But there is little I can do about it.

4. Crowds of people/People in general

This is to do with my social anxiety. I don’t like massive crowds of people. I don’t like being around people in general. I don’t trust them. I don’t function well around them. They have the power to reduce me to a quivering, unintelligible wreck. Many times over the years that I’ve been self harming I have been triggered to cut after spending prolonged periods of time around others. Even at school, being surrounded by dozens of other people, my peers, was enough to trigger me into self harming when I got home. It was a way to deal with the anxiety. It still is, all these years later.

5. Vanessa

Vanessa; the bane of my existence. Of my four primary voices she is the most abusive, the most vicious, the most damaging. Everything she says is an insult, every comment designed to inflict pain on my person. She encourages me to self harm often. I don’t always succumb to her wishes, but there have been times, many times, when I have. I wish she would stop. I wish she would stop telling me to do it. But she won’t. Like all the other triggers, I just have to install mechanisms to deal with her.

6. Boredom

I like being stimulated. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve never liked sitting around doing nothing. I need to be doing something. Whether that’s writing, reading, playing video games, watching TV, chatting to other people, masturbating (what, I’m an adult, and a passionate socially isolated one at that!), preparing dinner, listening to music, whatever. I need to be doing something. For when I’m not doing something the dark thoughts that populate my mind rise to the fore and I’m forced to self harm in order to appease them. This is a major problem given my current boring, monotonous routine. As essentially I do nothing every day, and in doing nothing, I have found my self harm urges growing with every passing day; threatening the self harm free eight months that I’ve successfully navigated.

Even though I know of my triggers, I still have tremendous difficulty with them. I am working hard to alleviate them, to find coping mechanisms and skills to stop them triggering self harm or summoning my deepest depression. It’s a learning curve, I guess, that I’m still working through. One day I hope I will get there. One day I hope I will be able to manage each of these six things. It’s just today, is not that day.

What about you? Do you have triggers you find hard to manage? Do you have any tips or tricks to overcome them?


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Hearing Voices: What triggers Meadhbh (in her own words)

Back in 2013 I did a lot of work to understand my voices on a number of fronts, including: the hearing voices support group (which I haven’t attended for over a year)  answering the Maastricht Interview with a support worker, writing blog posts about them and working through a Voices Work Book provided by the aforementioned group. In all four scenarios the subject of ‘triggers’ arose, and although I’m acutely aware of the vast majority of my anxiety/mood/PTSD triggers, I’ve long had little idea over my voices’ triggers. So when it came to tackling this subject I had little idea where to start. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t come up with anything other than ‘exhaustion’, ‘stress’ and ‘weakness’.

Now, more desperate than ever to understand my voice triggers, I’ve decided the only option is to ask them directly, commencing with my primary (and most helpful) voice, Meadhbh. So here – in her own words – are what Meadhbh considers to be the triggers that bring her forth.

Meadhbh

Moon

~ Triggers marked with a ‘‘ are shared with my other voices ~
~ All text written in purple font are direct quotes from Meadhbh ~

  • Camping
    Meadhbh took great pains to remind me how angry she was when I signed the lease of my unit in March 2012, as it meant we would have to move out of the tent we’d been staying in. For as long as I can remember Meadhbh has loved camping and will always come a calling when a tent is involved.
  • Exhaustion ♥
    With a guilty look on her face, Meadhbh told me: “When you’re exhausted, you’re weak. When you’re weak, you have to listen to me. Why wouldn’t I babble?”
  • Anything involving fantasy
    “When you were being bullied at school, I knew I had to find ways to take your mind off things. So I tried to focus on the things you liked, the things that made you laugh and smile and feel all wonderfully gooey. You know? Like Natalie, your desires, Doctor Who. But more than any of them, I loved it when you read me fantasy novels, as I could imagine myself as one of those sexyashell faeries! I guess that’s why I chose the Dragon Slayer [Note: Monster Hunter Tri] game for us to play. I like dragons, you like dragons, we can slay dragons together and be happy. You know, unless you kill the rhinocuties, in which case it’s the woodshed for you!”
  • When I’m stressed/anxious/upset/nervous etc.
    “When you’re stressed, I can either down-stress you or up-stress you, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re anxious, I can either wind you up or wind you down, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re upset, I can either make you smile or make you cut, depending on how naughty I feel.
    When you’re nervous, I can either make you worse or make you better, depending on how naughty I feel.
    You have no idea how powerful that much control over someone’s life can make you feel!
    It’s impossible to resist!”

  • Scotland (especially anything involving Skye, the country’s folklore and the SLWTCB)
    Meadhbh becomes aggravated whenever the SLWTCB comes up in conversation. For those who aren’t aware, the SLWTCB was a woman I met in the second week of my Scottish backpacking adventure. After chatting for a while in a hostel in Portree (Skye), we took ourselves to a local pub for a few alcoholic beverages before returning to the hostel where – in her doorway – I had a bit of a panic attack and wished her goodnight. The following morning, I left ludicrously early so as not to risk bumping into her. Meadhbh has long believed (since about 15 seconds after I closed my bedroom door that night) that I was a complete moronic wanker to have turned down such an obvious ‘sure thing’ and has never stopped reminding me of my anxiety-led stupidity. The other aspect of this incident that frustrates her is it that it happened on her home island and thus she believes my meeting the SLWTCB was ‘fate’.
    Thus, in addition to this cute bottomed lassie, Meadhbh is frequently rumbled by talk and/or memories of her homeland as she absolutely loves reminiscing of her time there.
  • Hearing Voices Support Group
    Ever since coming to the group for the first time – in order to see for herself what it was all about – Meadhbh has become a staunch supporter of the HVSG and will accompany me to the group. “It pisses me off we haven’t played with the ball for months!” she complained.
  • Not being believed (including victim blame mentality)
  • Boredom
    “Someone has to give you something to do. Better me than Vanessa!”
  • Going to bed
    “Firstly, you look cute in pyjamas. Secondly, beds are cool. Thirdly, who wants to go to bed alone? Fourthly, who really needs sleep? Fifthly, you’re a captive audience. Sixthly…” Audrey cut her off here, but Meadhbh stubbornly finished her sentence. “..I look cute in pyjamas!”
  • Sex (including actual sexual relations, fantasies and advances/situations)
  • Suicidal ideation and/or planning and/or actual attempts
    “Sometimes I feel guilty as shit for pushing you toward it. Other times I just want you to kill yourself because you’re a wothless cunt. Does that make me a bad person?”
  • BIG groups of people (i.e. anything over 6)
  • Music
    The following are some of the songs that invite Meadhbh:
    There She Goes My Beautiful World (Nick Cave)
    – Have You Ever Seen The Rain (Bonnie Tyler)
    – Defying Gravity (from the musical ‘Wicked’)
    – Girl & The Ghost (KT Tunstall)
    – The Love ‘A the Isles (Jenna Reid)
  • (Certain) beautiful women
    There are two reasons why Meadhbh explained (certain) beautiful women are an invitation for her:
    1) Her declaration that she is going to “find me a girlfriend” means she needs to assess each and every woman I encounter, even strangers on the street.
    2) Her love of clothing, which she becomes quite obsessive over.
  • Cute animals (especially possums, wombats and squeeorthy baby animals)
    At this point in the conversation all Meadhbh did was squeal incredibly loudly. Hence ‘squeeorthy’! :p
  • Anniversaries
    Although her presence on certain days isn’t as bad as some of my other people (notably Vanessa, who sees the 26th February as “her day”) Meadhbh will generally make her presence known on my ‘bad days’ and other occasions throughout the year; especially 7 May and 22 December.
  • When she’s being talked about
    “No way I’m letting you talk about me behind my back. You think I’m nits?” [sic]
  • Loneliness
    As she would go on to point out a few hours after our conversation, Meadhbh has become greatly saddened by my continual loneliness and isolation. She is aware (and thus I believe an element of guilt is involved) of the part she has played in this; as since her return in 2007, until 2013, her communications with me was exceedingly abusive and negative – fuelling my insecurities and perpetuating my self-hate. In order to redeem herself, Meadhbh has decided that when I get lonely, she needs to ‘keep me company‘.


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30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge: Day 09

Today’s prompt in the 30 Day Self Harm Awareness Challenge asks
Have you ever taken pictures of your wounds? Discuss.

I personally find photographs of self-harm to be triggering, which is a major reason as to why I’ve never photographed my own self-harm nor posted any images on this blog of other people’s self-harm.

When I began self-harming taking photographs of my wounds was  a big no-go area. Mostly because back in those pre-digital days any photographs taken had to go through a third-party developer and I didn’t want anyone (including strangers) to see what I was doing to myself.

Once digital took over in the naughties, I could easily have taken photographs of what I was doing to myself, but by this point my self-harm routine was pretty much set-in-stone. And it was a routine that didn’t involve photographs because, well, I knew that looking at them would trigger me into wanting to self-harm all over again.

In fact, the only times I’ve been tempted to take photographs of my wounds have been when I’ve carved an intricate pattern or shape into my flesh, not because I wanted to show them to anyone but because I wanted to keep an archival photo of my ‘artwork’. But I never did for the reasons already outlined above.


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And so it begins…

*Trigger Warning*
~ Please note that this post may be triggering to some ~

Christmas

Every year it’s the same. The shops will begin filling with sparkly tinsel, oversized boxes of chocolate and all manner of snowmen, Santa Claus and reindeer covered merchandise. Turkeys will take over the frozen food department and ridiculously large legs of ham will fill the deli. The in-store music will begin playing carols, Slade and Cliff Richard, whilst everyone in them will run around like headless chickens preparing for a season of festivities with their friends, family and loved ones.

Every year it’s the same. A few weeks before Christmas I will begin isolating myself; I will begin contemplating self-harm; and I will begin questioning whether this holiday season will be my last. For whilst everyone else is relishing the opportunity of celebrating another year gone with those they hold most dear, I am dreading another holiday season with no-one to care for but myself.

This weekend marked the beginning of this year’s pain.

On Saturday I rose from a fitful slumber at 4pm, staggering to my couch for a good cry before self-harming with a kitchen knife to help me through the evening. My mind was swamped with daymares of snow covered scenes, scary Santas and another holiday season with no-one to hold. I remained on the couch until 10pm before retreating to the safety of my bedroom for another crying session and another night’s fitful sleep.

Sunday was much the same. Even though I rose earlier, at 12pm, the invasive thoughts of self-harm and suicide were with me from the moment I woke. I cleaned the apartment, sat in sadness on the couch and convinced myself that I needed to venture into the outside world. A trip that filled me with sorrow as people maniacally rushed around the shopping center stocking up for C-Day, a mere three weeks away. By the time I returned home I was back in full-on isolation mode. I couldn’t have the radio on because of the wall-to-wall Christmas music. I couldn’t surf the net without being inundated with pop-up Christmas ads and festive season themed news reports. All I could do was spend another evening staring at the television whilst self-harming with creams and the occasional blissful knife.

All I could do was dread another season of pain, another season of isolation and another season wishing that people would understand that, for some, the holiday season is not about love, happiness and togetherness. It is about pain, despair and loneliness.

With three weeks to go I realise I need to concoct a safety plan, I realise I need ways to counteract the oncoming storm and I realise that no matter how hard I’ve worked this year, the triggering effect of Christmas is still as strong, overwhelming and powerful as ever.

Note: this post was freewritten between 11:10am and 11:30am on Monday, 8th December 2013. Please excuse any spelling and/or grammatical errors that may appear within as they are all part and parcel of this style of writing.


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 09: Questions for Heaven

Day nine of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
what questions relating to your mental health would you ask God and why?

Monty Python God

Religion is a topic I tend to shy away from talking about, not because I’m scared of broaching the subject, but because I am not a religious man. If I had to define myself, I would lean toward agnosticism, for I neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a deity.

The other reason I tend to shy away from talking about religion is because I find it a triggering issue. Throughout my homeless existence I had daily contact with religious organisations, as it was these organisations that operated the drop-ins, food services and soup vans that I would frequent. In order to access the services or receive the food, we would often be forced to pray or attend religious services, with refusal to do so leading to the denial of the help we most needed. This was something that I had a serious issue with, as I felt that the organisations were forcing (or manipulating) people who were most in need to ‘convert’ to a particular religion in order to receive the help that they desperately needed.

I’ve never held anything against those who choose to believe in a particular religion, but I have had (and continued to have) issues with people who forced their faith on others, especially those who are lost, without voice and most in need of help.

With these issues in mind, I am choosing not to answer today’s prompt.

Sorry.

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |